TOGETHER with my Green MSP colleagues, I was delighted to secure an extra £1.5million of funding for Clackmannanshire as part of a green budget deal for councils worth £170million nationally.

The Westminster Government has for years been passing down austerity budgets to Holyrood which are then passed on to councils. While this year the Tory Government has handed Holyrood extra money for loans, the revenue budget ignored inflation, effectively delivering a £199m cut in the money that pays the wages of people delivering services.

The draft budget put forward by the SNP Scottish Government on the back of this would have handed down a further 1.5 per cent cut to council budgets.

That’s why the Greens once again prioritised council funding in our negotiations with the SNP government. The council is responsible for so many vital services that impact directly on our communities from bin collection to roads maintenance, schools and support for the elderly and infirm for example.

The £1.5m will go a long way to taking damaging cuts proposals off the table for this year, but Clackmannanshire Council is still in a difficult position and will no doubt need to raise council tax this year.

The Green deal also delivers a three per cent pay rise for three quarters of public sector workers across the country.

Wages in the public sector have been static for many years, with teachers for example facing spiralling workloads, leaving many to put in dozens of extra hours of effectively unpaid labour every week.

It’s right that a fair wage settlement is put in place for all public sector workers that reflects the growing cost of living.

Poor quality public services damage us all, poor and wealthy alike. But those with the broadest shoulders can and should be expected to pay a little more to protect services.

The use of the tax powers this year in a more progressive way should ensure that more than two thirds of people will face no change in their taxes while those on the lowest incomes pay a little less and those on the highest pay a little more.

If we had signed up to the Tories Holyrood proposals on income tax then a further £500m would have been stripped out of the Scottish budget, pushing public services over a cuts cliff edge. Ruth Davidson’s view that economic growth only comes from cutting taxes for the richest is dangerously misguided.

As part of the budget discussions we highlighted the investment in infrastructure that is required to grow the economy.

New rail infrastructure can play it’s part in delivering the facilities big businesses like Diageo need to transport freight. But it can also open up new economic opportunities for SMEs and help individuals access a wider jobs market. That’s good for the economy, good for communities and the environment.

The fund we agreed with the Scottish Government to help develop new rail projects should be able to support feasibility work on the Alloa to Dunfermline re-opening. In time that could provide a real economic boost for Clacks and West Fife.